Objective: Vasomotor symptoms adversely affect the quality of life and functional status of most women during the menopausal transition, but little is known about how long these symptoms last. The most effective treatment, hormone therapy (HT), carries risks and benefits that depend on the timing and duration of use. In this study we sought to estimate the duration of vasomotor symptoms in a longitudinal study.
Methods: We reanalyzed primary data from 438 women in the longitudinal cohort of the population-based Melbourne Women's Midlife Health Project. Two hundred and five women who had completed 13 years of follow-up were included in the analyses. The onset and cessation of vasomotor symptoms were reported, stratifying analyses according to ever use of HT. Symptom duration was calculated as the time between the first and last bothersome hot flush reported.
Results: The mean (SD) duration of bothersome menopausal symptoms for women who completed 13 years of follow-up and who never used HT was estimated to be 5.2 (3.8) years (median, 4 years). If women who used HT were included, the mean (SD) duration was 5.5 (4.0) years (median, 4 years). The estimated duration of symptoms varied according to the duration of longitudinal follow-up, with a mean estimate of 3.4 years (median, 3 years) when only 8 years of follow-up data were analyzed. The only factor associated with duration of hot flushes was regular exercise-more exercise was associated with shorter symptom duration.
Conclusions: The average duration of vasomotor symptoms in this sample is more than 5 years, substantially longer than had been previously reported.